On Jan. 1, 2017, my to-do list read:
Should we move to Casper?
By Jan. 2, the house still needed cleaning, but it also needed to be packed up into boxes. My family of four was pulling up our very long roots and moving to a burgeoning town in the middle of Wyoming.
Last year, two days before Christmas, I was offered a new and exciting position within the Wyoming Community Foundation—but the position required moving my family and me to Casper. As someone with five generations of family history in my hometown of Cody, Wyoming, I did not take the idea of relocating my husband and two young children (5 and 6 years old) lightly.
Still, the offer was a good one. I had been at the Wyoming Community Foundation since 2011, and though I had traveled the state far and wide, from Evanston to Hulett, Greybull to Cheyenne, I had not yet had the opportunity to work in Casper. However, I knew of Casper’s generosity, their impressive school system and the access to outdoor recreation that this move would provide.
We did what many people do faced with a decision like this—we started with the basics and worked our way through our priorities. We made lists, we spoke to our personal “board of directors” and we made a special visit (a stormy trip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve). By March, we were living in a rental house, and three months later we were moving into a home we purchased downtown.
Here’s how our list of values unfolded:
Innovative Schools: Check.
Our daughter is now enrolled in a dual-language immersion program and is learning Mandarin Chinese. Our son has a wonderful preschool, and both kids spent an amazing summer at the Casper Recreation Center. The Science Zone, the Tate Geological Museum (dinosaurs!) and the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center have all inspired my children. This is a town that values education.
Vibrant Community: Check.
The downtown is bustling with new businesses, developments and a focus on restoration. With everyone taking a small piece of ownership, this town is reinventing itself from the inside out. Where the Amoco Refinery once sat, you will find a beautiful golf course. The Platte River Trails offer miles and miles of biking, running and walking opportunities along the riverfront. Since our move this spring, David Street Station has been completed and opened to the public, providing an amazing gathering space and concert venue downtown. At the Eclipse Festival, my kids danced in front of their new stage for hours! For us, a vibrant sense of community is essential.
Imagine a town of 50,000 people with a symphony, multiple museums and a phenomenal amount of local art. You won’t find many of those in the world. Since moving to Casper, we have enjoyed incredible performances by the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and experienced new artists and exhibitions at the Nicolaysen Art Museum and Art 321 (new home of the Casper Artist’s Guild).
Caring Friends And Neighbors: Check.
This one is a hard box to fill when you are coming from an already tight-knit community. But again, Casper delivers with book clubs, neighborhood bbqs, kind friends and welcoming faces everywhere I turn.
A City Of Generosity: Check, Check.
In my new job, I work in the heart of the philanthropic community of Casper. I have been inspired by the generosity of individuals, families and this entire city when it comes to the causes they care about. At its heart, this is a place full of people who know how to get things done, and they back that up with financial contributions, volunteer hours and passion for their community. There are so many examples of this, from the incredible after-school programs run by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming to the newly completed capital campaign that rebuilt the Casper Family YMCA (we are now members). Casper knows where it wants to go and has an inspiring vision of what is possible!
In the end, we moved my family of four 3.5 hours and 214 miles because of Casper’s incredible community assets ― many of which we visited during that stormy trip in December. I am proud to say that I am a Wyoming girl, and I am happy to call WyoCity home.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.